How impossible are playdates when you want to catch up on the goss, but you also need to keep a carefully trained eye on the behaviour of the spawn?
Soft play centres and parks are littered with mums with roaming eyes, having half conversations and abandoning coffee to rescue chimps from apparatus, whilst pivoting on a 360 swivel like a jewellery box ballerina.
You want to be involved in meaningful adult conversations, but you also don’t want your little one to fall, get lost, eat poo, (theirs/others) or stab someone with a stick, so we resort to all manner of tactics to keep eyes on the mini, without appearing to be their bodyguard.
I had a particularly embarrassing experience on our recent trip to Mallorca, where I was faced with the predicament of trying to be friendly and hilarious (always keen to impress new people), whilst trying to maintain a cool demeanour and relaxed parenting approach. I do not have a relaxed parenting approach. I do not want people to know that, of course. I want to appear…..breezy.
Breezy, Breezy, Breezy
A few days in to the holiday, Chopper and Mr G met a family from Glasgow. They bonded in the swimming pool over inflatable jet skis and mutual love of dunking. That evening, as we loitered for a seat at the kids disco, the family extended an invite to their table.
The disco was a slush-fuelled, densely populated rampage of tots through to teens, held in a large area beside the pool. Essentially…Hell. Hell, on slush.
Taking my seat, I gave a friendly smile, sparked up the usual holiday convo, and before long we were bonding over all-inclusive cocktails and doing the pantomime eye roll at the boys, who were roaring at each other like dinosaurs.
Ten minutes in, we are getting along peachy. Mr G is having a hoot with Mr Scottish Bloke, the dinosaur kids are now bumping trucks on the table, and me and Scottish Wife are full-on lolling. Internal monologue is fast-forwarding to visiting their house in Scotland, our boys being best man at each other’s wedding, and me and Scottish Wife meeting up for girl’s weekends. I’m literally happily ever aftering….
We chat about all sorts, it’s an instant click, and I’m thinking this new gal pal is a keeper. Ok, so I’ve only been chatting to her for a mere 20 minutes, but 20 minutes at Frozen Margarita pace is the equivalent of 6 months in real time as any girl knows.
What followed this ignition of a new friendship was a lightning quick catalogue of events requiring fast parental judgement…..something I do not excel at. Something which was going to expose me in front of my new BFF for the frantic parent I am.
Chopper started to complain about his trainers, which were ‘melting his feet off’. Mr G declares he will go up to the room to get flip-flops. With Chopper on my knee, I am prising trainers off his swollen trotters, and as I do, I knock the table, causing a shocking domino rally of drinks all over the floor. The waiter approaches swiftly, muttering under his breath, and barks for my replacement drinks order whilst ferociously mopping the table.
Amidst the Margarita mess, Chopper’s new Scottish pal runs over and asks him to play. He shoots off my lap barefooted and runs over to the disco leaving me no time to remind him of the KEY HOLIDAY RULE (always make sure you can see me and I can see you). I call it a holiday rule, but it’s technically a rule of life, as I remind him everytime we leave the house, because that’s how breezy I am.
Only this time, in the 30 seconds of chaos, I lose sight of the precious cargo.
I jolt up and knock my handbag down off the seat, sending half the contents of Superdrug over the floor, including my holiday hero, Mitchum deodorant. (Heat is not my friend). Ignoring the bright green bottle rolling at pace under various tables, I create a makeshift telescope with my hands and do a Keanu/Matrix style scan of the dance floor, approximately 15 metres away. The Scottish Wife is gawping at my madcap performance.
I can’t see him.
I rush up to the dance floor, waving sweaty pits in the air and knocking plastic chairs as I go. I’m now shoulder barging people out of the way, rummaging through children like odd socks in an underwear drawer, discarding unwanted ones violently. Clammy infants strewn to the side with wild abandon whilst I try to locate the khaki shorts and green t-shirt of my first-born. (Actually only-born but first-born sounds in keeping with the drama).
When I realise I have sifted through 90% of the population of the dance floor, I pirouette to scan the perimeter.
Still no Chopper.
After several manic 360 turns, I start making my way to the stage to get a bird’s eye view. As I’m climbing the stairs at the side of the stage, taking 3 steps at a time, about to upset tonight’s performance of “Pin the tail on the Pirate”, I spot him. Stood just behind the stage.
Laughing his tits off with his new pal.
Shameless. Brazen. Oblivious.
I march over to him and without a word, point to the wall to indicate I require him to be propped up against it whilst I deliver the sermon. I sense I must look absolutely nuts at this point with my steely dragon face and out of control sweat patches.
Only, out of the corner of my eye, I see Chopper’s new little pal, staring at me with a mixture of amusement and bafflement. I sense for the first time in his 4 year old life, that I am about to embarrass the shit out of my son.
I inhale deeply to calm down the wheezy panty breaths….and I give Chopper a hug, whisper a small ‘refresh’ of the acceptable zones of play in his ear before flashing a wide grin and employing the sing song voice. “Enjoy yourself, poppet!”
As I head back to the table wafting the sweat away and trying to plaster my sticky hair down, Mr G has returned.
He is standing with my Mitchum deodorant in his hands, and Chopper’s flip-flops. From the look on his face, Scottish Family have filled him in on my curious lunacy, and my violent karate chopping of children of the dance floor. As I look at the face of Scottish Wife, I’m sensing a premature curtailment of our blossoming friendship.
I was right. Our friendship never did develop into that happy ever after. I think I actually saw her do a 360 swivel away from me at breakfast.